Questions and Answers with Rachel Hartman
1) What inspired you to write Seraphina? And how long did it take you to get from the first word to publication?
My first idea for Seraphina came when my parents divorced after more than thirty years of marriage. Their situation got me thinking: what it must be like to marry someone and then, years later, find out your spouse was someone different than you thought. Seraphina’s father discovered his wife’s secret only when she died in childbirth. My early drafts of Seraphina dealt much more directly with the fallout from that. Over the years that part of the story receded and I was able to focus on more interesting questions about Seraphina herself, and how this heritage would affect her when she left home. I began that first draft when I was pregnant with my son, who has just turned nine. It’s been a long road, but a good one.
2) If you could meet any Character from the book, which one would it be and why? (personally I’m stuck between Orma and Lars)
I am so pleased to see Lars getting some love! He is one of my favourites as well. If I could only choose one, however, at this particular moment I feel inclined toward Orma. He’s such an interesting mixture, at once alien and familiar. I would like to talk to him about art. Tomorrow, though, I might prefer Princess Glisselda. I feel like I know all these people, and they are old friends already!
3) What was the biggest challenge that you faced while writing Seraphina?
Being patient. Writing is slow work, at least for me, but that’s the least of it. I didn’t realize how much waiting there would be. You wait to hear back from agents, and then you wait to hear back from editors. I turn 40 the day before the book comes out in North America. If someone had told me, nine years ago, that I would be 40 before the book came out... well, I hope I would have had the presence of mind to say, “How old will I be if I don’t do it?”
4) The cover of your book is gorgeous! Did you have any say in its design?
I had no say whatsoever in the cover, and I am glad of that fact. I love both my covers, UK and North American, and I am particularly fascinated by how they can be so different and yet both suit the book so well. If I’d had a hand in it, we’d have been robbed of a chance to see other people’s interpretations, and the world would have missed out on some lovely images.
5) Can you give anything away about what we will see in the sequel? And when will it be released?
I’m so bad about spoilers! I always think I’m saying something completely innocuous, when in fact I’m giving everything away. I believe it’s safe to say, however, that the second book contains Abdo, quigs, and war, in varying amounts. The work proceeds apace, but I write slowly and my (wonderful) editor is a bit of a perfectionist. We both agree that excellence trumps speed. We will work as hard and fast as we can, in other words, and I feel confident it won’t take another nine years. I am probably not the kind of writer who can crank out a book every year, however.
6) And finally, what was the best piece of advice you were given back when you were still an aspiring writer?
I took a single writing class at university, and the one thing that stuck with me was a quote from Annie Dillard: "It is no less difficult to write sentences in a recipe than sentences in Moby-Dick. So you might as well write Moby-Dick." There are a number of ways one could interpret that statement, but I took it to mean: don’t be timid. Don’t hoard your big ideas or save them for later. Use them now. You’re not going to run out. I’ve found that to be wondrously true.
Thank you so much Rachel for answering my questions. I totally loved Seraphina and you guys can check out my review of it HERE!